When we first started Alumnify, we had no idea what we're doing. Not only was this our first startup, but we also didn't know anything about alumni engagement. To make matters worse, we started the company right after college, so we didn't even have much experience with long-term sales. Looking back, one of the biggest reasons we are still in business today is the fact that we learned fast. We have had amazing mentors save us time and time again, and we've tried our best to learn quickly.

While all mentors can be helpful in different ways, some of the best teachers can be your customers. Entrepreneurs overlook the opportunity of having an early adopter as a mentor. This causes them to miss out on many benefits. Although you will need several teachers, the ones who are most important will help show you how to generate more revenue. And if that's the case, then you need loyal buyers as your coaches. Here's why your clients will make amazing mentors for your company.

1. It'll help close the initial sale

Before I go into this point, it's essential that you understand the difference between an adviser and a mentor. An official adviser is someone who typically has shares in your company. These people should not be chosen lightly, and you should limit the number you bring on board. A mentor is anyone who teaches you. I have many mentors, but far less advisers. There is no paperwork for a mentor, and you should get as many good ones as you can.

Now that you know this, you'll be less hesitant to ask customers to be mentors during the commitment phase your sales pitch. While I don't do this for every prospect I meet, I do it for big time customers who I get along with. One of the immediate benefits is it makes it easier for the purchaser to buy my product.

Has anyone ever asked you to be a mentor for him or her? Whenever this happens to me, I immediately feel more connected to that person. It doesn't matter if you agree or not, there's just something that makes you feel special when someone asks you to coach them. That feeling will resonate with your customer and get them to become more committed. It'll become easier for them to feel a part of your company, and to want to help you succeed. By asking them to be a teacher for you, you take the relationship to a more personal level, which will help get a commitment.

2. The customer will bring you more clients

Your client is going to be speaking to other prospects that he knows. Once he is a mentor for you, he'll have no problem telling other buyers about his new role. It's always exciting telling others about the companies we are helping out.

Now that the purchaser feels like he's part of your organization, he'll become one of your largest advocates. This will help bring in business but also other potential mentors. If he has other customers who would be a good fit for you, this could be an opportunity to build a board of mentors in your market.

3. You'll get the advice you need

When we were in the early stages of Alumnify, one of my greatest challenges was learning B2B sales. To my amazement, the people who taught me the most were the first customers I had. Because vendors had approached them all the time, they could tell me what worked and what did not.

Also, I was and still am able to find out new problems to solve in the market. When my mentors who have bought from me experience a difficulty, they bring it to my attention so I can make sure I am ahead of the curve. Finally, the customers who are your mentors will try the hardest to make your product a success. They personally are invested in you, and they'll go out of their way to be a great client. Another benefit is that they'll be much more understanding of flaws in your product. Your customer mentors will actively bring in more business, and be willing to dig deep with you to get your product working right. Those are two qualities that separate great mentors from the pack.

Published on: Nov 24, 2014